The Irish parade season kicks off this Sunday, March 2, with the inclusive Queens St. Patrick's Day Parade led by grand marshals Christine Quinn, the out lesbian speaker of the City Council, and writer Pete Hamill. It starts at 2 p.m. at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue (#7 train to 40th St./Lowery) and winds up at 61st Street and Woodside. For more information, go to www.stpatsforall.com
The Radical Homosexual Agenda is promising to be there to both participate and “remind New Yorkers” that Quinn “stole our right to assemble just over a year ago,” part of their ongoing protest against her support for new Police Department rules denying the right of “any 'recognizable group' of 50 or more to proceed through NYC without prior permission of the police.”
The Manhattan St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue on March 17 will be protested once again by Irish Queers with an action along the route at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, starting at 11 a.m. The parade, controlled by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), has refused Irish LGBT groups the chance to participate with their banners since the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, now defunct, applied in 1991. Then-Mayor David Dinkins let ILGO march with him that year. The gay marchers and the mayor were pelted with bottles and other abuse and ILGO and other openly LGBT groups have since been totally excluded.
Most major Democratic politicians, except for New York's two US senators, have honored a boycott of the Fifth Avenue parade. Quinn, who was arrested several times in protests against the exclusion but – like almost all elected officials – has not joined the picket in recent years, tried to broker a way for Irish LGBT folk to march when she first became speaker, but was decisively rebuffed. Her effort involved allowing marchers to participate with identifying gay sashes and buttons, a compromise approach Emmaia Gelman of Irish Queers rejects, saying anything less than being allowed to march behind a banner would not do. “We're not going to be downgraded,” Gelman said.
On the “Gay USA” TV show I co-host with Ann Northrop, Quinn, several weeks ago, said, “I'm going to keep fighting and keep boycotting until we can get past this.” While she conceded she was not optimistic about a change under the current AOH leadership, she said, “When you talk to the leadership of these organizations one step below – the next round of folks who are going to take over – when they're in charge we'll get beyond this.”
Gelman said, “We can't have a committee decide who is Irish.”
In a release, Irish Queers called on Quinn to “stop giving cover to politicians who ignore the boycott – Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Michael Bloomberg among them – by standing with them everywhere but on Fifth Avenue and glossing over their decision to support religious-right homophobes.”
Irish Queers wrote Quinn about their concerns and said that in her emailed response she reiterated her commitment not to march, but did not respond to the issues they raised.